Friday, October 20, 2006

Mission and Dialogue ...

With all the talks I've been attending on Nostra Aetate, and with World Mission Sunday approaching (this Sunday, Oct. 22), I've come across some interesting articles on the relationship between interreligious dialogue and mission.

First of all that Manual of Interreligious Dialogue mentioned earlier this week, turned out to be a 1700+ page compendium of all papal teaching on interreligious dialogue. A dictionary, rather than a "manual."

Reading some of the comments over at Amy's in response to this news piece ("why dialogue? Just proclaim Christ!") made me remember that dialogue is in service to the church's evangelization mission. [That's a quote from Redemptoris Missio] and this idea is the basis of the document Dialogue and Proclamation, expounded upon by Abp. Michael Fitzgerald (former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue). (There's also the text of a talk given by him at Boston College in March 2006: What the Catholic Church has learned from Interreligious Dialogue.

Via Neil at Catholic Sensibility, I was lead to this really interesting piece in an Australian theological e-journal, "We were gentle among you: Christian mission as dialogue." [By SVD Fathers Stephen Bevans and Roger Scroeder] I've still not read the whole thing and will have more thoughts after assimilating it ... Neil's summary is great.

Finally, the Tablet has a piece by Fr. Patrick Noonan, a Franciscan missionary in S. Africa, profiling the modern missionary:
The modern missionary is someone who steeps him- or herself in new cultures and enters sympathetically in the lives of others. It is a process that is demanding and poses major psychological challenges.
The serious missionary learns that the people of the host culture will accept him when they are ready, once he has opened and disclosed himself sufficiently and with empathy to their world view. There is a powerful lesson in listening here - learned, typically, from people's stories as we sit crouched around a table with one flickering candle long into the African night. The missionary has a sense of being pulled emotionally in different directions by his home country and the country he has chosen to serve in. Sometimes he feels closer to the soul of his adopted country than his own country of birth. Meanwhile, responding to local needs, he is trying to be a car mechanic, carpenter, plumber, painter, electrician, accountant, motivator, problem-solver, peacemaker, organiser, secretary, pastoral priest, brother or sister all in one.

He begins to find the Christ of other cultures - "the hidden traces of God" - in other cultures. This is a hugely rewarding encounter, an experience of God in action. Previously unrecognised presences of God progressively and gradually materialise before him. This exposure to the diversity of the divinity slowly becomes his frame of reference in life. When many of his "non-missionised" colleagues, friends and family at home encounter his changed perspectives they are sometimes mystified and uncomprehending.
[I'm not sure what "diversity of the divinity" really means]
The early Franciscans missionaries in Morocco 800 years ago learned from their experience. They changed their ways. Recently an Arab commentator said this about Franciscans in the Middle East:"Instead of engaging us [with apologetics], they quietly go about our cities, serving everyone. Once people are served they become interested in Christianity, and the next thing you know they've become followers of Jesus. Those Franciscan Christians don't fight fair with us."


Neil said...

Thanks for reading my contribution to Catholic Sensibility. I just wanted to add that another SVD priest, a missionary in Japan, commented to my post. He talked a bit about his own life and directed me to some other sites and readings. Actually, his comment is worth as much as my original post. So it is worth it to glance at the comments box ...

Gashwin said...

Thanks for the tip, Neil!